Three years in the making and first released back in 1961, Disney’s $4 million 101 Dalmatians introduced one of the classic screen villains in the form of wicked rich bitch Cruella DeVille, she of the alarming pre-punk two-tone hairdo. Adapted from the novel by Dodie Smith, it’s the story of randy hound Pongo and his master Roger who fall for perky Perdita and her mistress Anita. One marriage and 15 adorable dalmatian puppies later, evil Cruella hires a pair of Cockney crooks named Jasper and Harold to snatch the pups. And when Pongo tracks them down to a deserted mansion on the outskirts of London, using the secret “twilight bark”, he finds that Cruella has amassed no fewer than 99 pooches with the intention of turning them into a fur coat.
It’s a typically delightful tale, excellently voiced throughout, with the honours going to Rod Taylor as Pongo and Betty Lou Gerson as Cruella. The 300 animators obviously had a great deal of fun with it too: notice how closely most of the dogs resemble their masters.